Would an Atlantic City shutdown hurt tourism? Don’t bet on it
ATLANTIC CITY — With state and local officials fretting over a possible government shutdown in this struggling resort town, some business leaders here don't seem concerned that the tourism and gambling industries would take a hit.
Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday there may be a significant negative impact on tourism if the city government shuts down. He promised to lay the blame on Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, who has refused to allow a state takeover measure to be considered because he opposes a stipulation that would force municipal unions to renegotiate their contracts, something Christie says is absolutely essential.
“Call him and ask him why he’s messing up their family vacation," Christie said about Prieto. "Ask him why he’s messing up their convention. Ask him why he’s messing up their meetings. Ask him why he’s putting the interests of public sector unions ahead of the interests of the people of Atlantic City, Atlantic County and all those people who go there.”
But Roger Gros, the publisher of Global Gaming Business Magazine, said that while a shutdown wouldn't send a positive message, “I think gamblers just want to gamble" and "it’ll be business as usual."
"Gamblers are just interested in what the casinos are going to do for them, whether it be the gambling experience or the comps they get or those kind of things," he said. "They really don’t really care what happens in the city.”
Jim Wood, the president and CEO of Meet AC, which promotes the Atlantic City Convention Center, said the hotels are all running very high occupancies for April and May.
“We’re optimistic that the city will still remain open, all the businesses will be open, it doesn’t impact any of the hotels, it doesn’t impact the convention center, it doesn’t impact any of the retail establishments.”
Even if the shutdown becomes a reality, essential personnel like police and firefighters will remain on the job, “so there’s going to be a level of service that’s still out there.
"Most people when they come to Atlantic City, they drive in on the Atlantic City Expressway, they park in a garage at a casino, they go into the casino, they spend their weekend, they get back in their car and they drive back home. How much exposure to the city do they really have? It’s limited.”
Gros said that “people who come to Atlantic City come here on a regular basis for the most part, so they understand that the troubles of the city are completely separate from the experience they’re getting.”